In memory of and in tribute to one of Nuneaton’s most celebrated sons.
Larry Grayson was a prominent entertainer and national TV personality in the 1970s and 1980s who made his home in Nuneaton. We wanted this part of the Grayson Place website to be a tribute to ‘Our Larry’.
He was born William Sully White at a nursing home in Banbury, Oxfordshire, on August 31, 1923. His parents were unmarried and he never met his father. When he was 10 days old, his mother, Ethel White, arranged for him to be fostered by Alice and Jim Hammonds, who lived in a small, terraced house in Abbey Green, Nuneaton.
Jim worked as a coal miner and had two young daughters, Flo and May. His wife Alice died when Billy was six years old and he was brought up by Flo, with whom he lived for most of his life – mainly in Nuneaton and for a brief spell in Torquay.
Known first as William White and then as Billy Hammonds, he left school at 14 but his first job, as a sales assistant in a shoe shop, lasted just two days. Within a week he was performing with a local concert party, The Very Lights, and made his debut at Fife Street Working Men’s Club, singing a risqué ditty “In the Bushes at the Bottom of the Garden.”
Adopting the stage name Billy Breen, he became a solo comedian, doing the rounds of clubs and pubs throughout the Midlands, appearing in drag for the first half and in a smart suit after the interval. Over more than 35 years he developed a unique, gentle anecdotal style of humour, based around imaginary friends such as Everard Farquharson, Apricot Lil, Slack Alice, Sterilised Stan the milkman and postman, Pop-it-In Pete – all based on people he knew while living in Clifton Road, Nuneaton.